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e-Platforma za obrazovanje odraslih u Europi



EPALE Prison Education Week - what type of approach is taken in your country?

by EPALE Moderator

/epale/hr/file/prison-educationPrison Education

Prison Education


Europe’s prison population is around 640,000 and it’s estimated that only 3-5% are at a level that would allow them to progress into higher education. Low education levels affect prisoners’ employment prospects, and impact reinsertion into society and the likelihood of reoffending. To discuss prison education, we’re holding a text-based discussion here as part of EPALE Prison Education Week.

This discussion is based on a Norwegian report, “Learning Basic Skills while serving time”, which describes a specific pedagogical approach used for the provision of basic skills training in prisons. You can acess it here. Relevance, motivation and contextual learning are important issues for all adult learning in Europe today. Is this type of approach implemented in your country?

The discussion is now open, so comment or 'react' to a post to have your say. (Log in or sign up to EPALE here to take part). Follow live highlights of the discussion on Twitter and Facebook! Look out for updates via #epale2016.

** Summary of the discussion

The topics in this discussion cover:

  • Basic literacy and numeracy, including accreditation, length of sentence and embedded learning
  • Pre course assessment and motivational issues, including assessment methods, tools for motivation and the differences between basic and key skills
  • Training of service providers, such as basic prison rules and guides that have been introduced through projects
  • Evaluation of success, through analysis of recidivism rates, employment and skills acquisition

For a more comprehensive summary of the discussion on the first day, see Dr Joe Giordmaina's summary post in the discussion.

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Students are assessed the same way as they are in the public education system, since it is formal teaching; that is, the same kind of tests, rating scales... But we also assess students' interest, effort, educational achievement or attendance, and this evaluation is shared with the prison treatment team and it is taken into account for further granting of prison privileges.

Slika korisnika Brian Creese

I had a long conversation last week about how to evaluate prison education with colleagues form all the organisations that provide prison education in England. Clearly to evaluate anything you need to agree on what its aims and objectives are. These aims and objectives tend to vary according to which stakeholder you engage with. The Government, while clearly seeing education as an important element in rehabilitation, has chosen to focus on education as preparation for work. So they would claim that entry to employment on release is a sign of success for prison education. However for many working with prisoners 'through the gate' it is clear that other aspects of life are likely to have an impact on getting a job, such as having somewhere to live, being drug-free or having a stable relationship. Education may have gone well in prison but other factors might make getting a job impossible.

The rate of recidivism is another tempting evaluation measure. Once again, however, those working in prisons would say that education is not the only factor that will affect whether or not a prisoner will go on to commit more crimes.

Then there are educationalists who see education not so much as a tool to deliver a behavioural objective but as a human right; for these people education about developing the whole person, about spiritual and intellectual growth and they might see higher education as a desirable goal for prisoners with time on their hands even if it does not lead to improved work outcomes.

This is just a flavour of our discussion last week, but it shows the complexity of agreeing on an evaluation framework for prison education, particularly when it becomes a political issue.

Slika korisnika Joseph Giordmaina

Hi Brian. Coming from a UK environment I am sure you know what I'm picking on here - the relationship between funding and results. It seems that there is this constant pressure - not only in the UK - to fund only that which provides some sort of result - meaning that educators are always facing the pressure to show that what they do works. As you said the recidivism rate is often used - at least in my country for sure - as an indicator for success for rehabilitation in general - education being one of the ingredients. As an indicator I am not convinced that it is the right tool.

It is also a pity when literacy and numeracy - and most rehabilitation programmes in general - are tied to employability on release - particularly in countries where unemployment is high. Inmates need literacy also while serving their sentence. I see for example in our prison a lack of interest in reading - not even a newspaper. Some have difficulties in reading communication related to their crime (courts, lawyers, police) etc., also in reading how some newspapers reported their crime - something they always seem interested in :-)

Is education in the UK offered to those on remand?

Thanks for your insightful observations and contribution to the discussion. 

Slika korisnika Joseph Giordmaina

Please write your contribution about the training of service providers under this heading.

Press the GREEN button REACT and write a comment/reaction.

We plan to focus on this issue tomorrow and the day after. But of course one can add comments/reactions today. 

Thank you.

Slika korisnika Xenofon Chalatsis

Good morning everyone.

Regarding today's topic, the training of trainers working in the prison environment, I would like to share with you our experience from the implementation of the PEBBLE project (Prison Education: Basic Skills Blended Learning). As a crucial part of the organisation and delivery of the PEBBEL pilot training seminars to inmates for the development of four basic skills using the blended learning methodology, project partners organised training sessions with the educators who would undertake the training of inmates. As mentioned by other participants in the discussion the profile of these professionals is of major importance, contributing to the success (or failure) of the educational process.

The PEBBLE approach was to train them in both general issues such as Basic Principles of Adult Education, Prison Education, Basic Skills and the Role of the Educator and project specific issues such as Blended Learning, the PEBBLE Learning Management System and the Content of the E-Learning Course for those four basic skills addressed by the project. The feedback we received was very positive, reflecting the educators' need to renew their skills and competences so as to be better qualified in their work.

Project partners have developed a comprehensive guide containig all necessary educational materials for the training of educators in prisons, in case other correctional institutions decide to implement such educational initiative. The Guide was developed in English and it will be translated in the partners languages (Greek, Italian and Romanian).

If interested, you can take a look at the Guide in the following link:


In our school some teachers currently teaching began as teachers belonging to the prison administration, but since 2005 there are also some other teachers from the public education system. We keep demanding for specific training, as there was before; in fact we are now participating in an Erasmus + project on specific training for teachers teaching in prisons.

In our prison there is a Coordinating and Follow-up Comittee of the education in prisons, which regularly meets to deal with cultural, educational and sport activities developed in the prison.

From the beginning all teachers are familiarised with the basic rules and characteristics of the prison and participate in many of the consulting bodies.

Slika korisnika Diana Alnas


I agree Juan Carlos, teachers who work in prison should have a more specialized training than ordinary teachers. In Norway the prison teachers come from the Upper secondary school, and they often teach youth from 16-18 also. I think it is necessary for teachers who teach adults in prison to have more knowledge about how grown ups learn, but andragogy is not offered at thee teacher training colleges.

Slika korisnika Graciela Sbertoli

And in addition to general andragogy and the necessary insight to teach inmates and to know how to create good synergies with the prison's staff, the teachers offering training in basic skills will need specific knowledge on how to facilitate literacy and numeracy learning in adults -  a fact that is sadly overlooked more often than not...

Slika korisnika Joseph Giordmaina

Dear Diana, thank you for your contribution. I perfectly agree with your statement that most teachers in prisons come with experience of secondary school teaching - and teach in a style that is more apt to secondary school teaching than to adult school learning. I often use the term learning facilitators rather than teachers. Of course repeating secondary school material and pedagogy is a non starter - particularly for those who failed in schools - more of the same does not work. 

What I would like your opinion about is the following questions: do you think teachers in prisons should, apart from training in andragogy, have some understanding about crime and criminals - the kind of knowledge one normally gets from the field of criminology? Thank you. Joe